You know what I have always hated about tires? The air.
Fortunately Polaris, a manufacturer of ATVs, finally has an answer to my prayers: airless tires. This exciting new piece of tech was originally designed for the military, and it shows tires that look like straight out of a dystopic Sci-Fi future.
Polaris is calling its version of the technology TerrainArmor, and it comes with some impressive performance. The tire will keep rolling for 350 miles after getting hit with a .50 caliber bullet weighing 1.5 ounces traveling faster than the speed of sound.
If that’s not impressive enough for you, Polaris claims that the tires will keep working for a full 1,000 miles after a railway spike has been hammered into them. So what makes this kind of toughness possible?
The tires are supported by a rubber mesh, which can absorb bumps while still being rigid enough to support the weight of the vehicle. There are even added benefits to cornering and stability because the tires lower the vehicle’s center of gravity.
The tires carry a normal tread wrapped around the mesh, and this can be replaced when it has been worn out, without having to replace the structure. This offers both reduced waste and the potential of swapping out tread patterns depending on conditions.
As it stands, you can only get the tires on one of Polaris’ ATVs, the Sportsman WV850 H.0. It will run you $14,999, but for that you are getting a hell of a lot.
The WV850 can carry 600 pounds of cargo on its racks and tow another 1500 pounds behind it. That’s is awfully close to pickup territory for a vehicle that is only 94 inches long.
Airless tires may be in the future for road-going vehicles too. Major tire makers like Michelin and Bridgestone have experimented with the idea, even going so far as to develop working prototypes. However, this work is not out of the development phase and there is no word on if or when it will come to fruition.
Still this technology clearly has real potential benefits for cars, and I am excited to see it in the showroom.